Moroccan health professionals worry that the decision to “go back to normal life” may be leading to a COVID-19 debacle across the country.
Rabat – Worried about the country’s “alarming COVID-19 figures,” some of Morocco’s leading health experts organized a videoconference this weekend to assess the country’s new epidemiological situation.
With some having already started sounding the alarm bells about Morocco’s COVID-19 debacle in the making, the experts discussed the reasons for Morocco’s rising COVID-19 figures and proposed some corrective measures, according to local news outlet Assabah.
In their conference, Morocco’s leading health experts tended to mostly agree with the assessment that the “rushed” lifting of some of the life-saving emergency measures is the main explanatory factor for the country’s new and worryingly evolving epidemiological situation.
They particularly pointed out that the decision to “go back to normal life” by opening the country and the economy has turned out to be especially hasty and misguided.
Late testing and slow contact-tracing
They also lamented some “dysfunctions” in the country’s mass testing and contact-tracing measures, saying that implementation has been slow and ineffective.
“We need to administer more tests to identify cases early and treat them before they reach critical stages,” the president of the Moroccan Medical Sciences Society, Afif Moulay Said, noted.
While authorities have recently spoken proudly of the country’s increased testing capabilities, the experts said that most COVID-19 cases in Morocco are still tested late. In addition, patients are reported to be admitted to hospitals or submitted to the treatment protocol in use only after their symptoms have worsened.
According to the Assabah report, the conference’s attendees deplored the country’s contact-tracing. In most cases, after confirmation of a COVID-19 case, it takes seven or more days to trace and test all of the infected person’s contacts.
By the time the results of their tests are out, the experts explained, many patients are already in an advanced stage of infection.
Meziane Bellafkih, who heads the epidemiology department at the Ministry of Health, said: “It is unacceptable to wait four days to get tested and four more days to get your results.”
With late testing having been identified as a major factor in COVID-19 complications, some of the experts also revealed that 85% of COVID-19 patients admitted in ICUs across Morocco have died.
El Houssein Baro, a department head at the Ibn Rochd Hospital in Casablanca, decried Morocco’s rising infections.
He especially vented his frustration at the country’s increasing COVID-19 mortality rate, explaining that mortality at his facility has jumped from 11 deaths on average per day to 24 deaths in recent weeks. Baro complained that most cases admitted to hospital are “already in a desperate situation,” adding that at least 23% of those die immediately following hospitalization.
While they slightly disagreed on what Morocco needs to do in the coming days to reverse what many of them described as a “grim and desperate” situation, the experts unanimously called for mass and early testing, in addition to more effective contact-tracing.
Morocco was, by most standards, among countries whose handling received praise and congratulatory nods in the early months of the pandemic. The country’s initial, quick response in the first weeks was applauded by citizens and residents and admired abroad.
Mass production of masks, total lockdown, and the multiplication of testing and treatment capacities in hospitals across Morocco initially allowed the country to shield its hospitals from overwhelmingly high COVID-19 cases.
Since the easing of many of those emergency measures, however, the initial success has given way to doubts, questions, as increasing numbers of infections and deaths become the new reality at many Moroccan hospitals and special COVID-19 units.
Without pleading for a return to the total lockdown policy that many have since credited with Morocco’s initial success, the experts appeared to be in favor of keeping some of the emergency measures.
The fight against the pandemic is far from over, they insisted, discouraging relaxation in both government’s measures and citizens’ attitudes.